Feb 23

Moist Banana Cake with Chocolate Chips and Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Icing

One of the huge advantages of living and working in Seattle is that you have a vast array of vendors at your fingertips over at Pike’s Place Market. I really love it and I have gotten to know several of the vendors quite well. It is not uncommon for me to get hugs from some of them, some shout out “Hello chef” as I pass by (a bit embarrassing I will admit), they will always tell you the latest and greatest of what they have that day, and often they are eager to hand you samples to taste. It is not uncommon on days that before 11 A.M. I have smelled mushrooms, sampled cheeses, tasted herbs, and have taken bites of fruit so fresh and ripe I swoon.

Some of the ripe bananas and the oranges I picked up from the market.

Some of the ripe bananas and the oranges I picked up from the market.

I often stop off at some of the vendors on my way home from work. Sometimes I  come home with different fruits and veggies for the week. There are other days I come home with anything from fresh truffles, ramps, green garlic, and just about anything that you wouldn’t find at your average corner market. We (Seattlites) are so lucky to have this all a pulse away. Most importantly, I love that I can walk up at any given time and ask any vendor “What is good this week?” and they openly tell you what you should and should not get. While I was being told at how fabulous some of the new oranges were the vendor looked at me and said, “I have bananas so ripe right now I need to get rid of them. I will give you a bunch for $1-.” You do not need to ask me twice about something like that.

The makings of really good peanut butter cream cheese icing.

The makings of really good peanut butter cream cheese icing.

So I headed home with my oranges and bananas and pondered what to make. I placed the bananas in a bowl at home and gave it a day to think about it. By the next morning I had my heart set on a cake. Why it was just a couple weeks ago I made banana muffins, so it was logical that I graduate on to CAKE! And not just a plain old banana cake, I was thinking of a chocolate chip banana cake with peanut butter cream cheese icing. I stopped in at the dairy vendor at Pike’s Place Market on my way home to get some fresh buttermilk for the cake. In my opinion, if you want a moist banana cake you need buttermilk!

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake filled and topped with Peanut butter Cream Cheese Icing.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake filled and topped with Peanut butter Cream Cheese Icing.

By the time evening rolled around my apartment smelled fantastic as that banana cake baked. I let the cake cool and chill over night and the following day I prepared the icing. Slicing the cake to fill and also top it with the icing was perfection. The banana cake is really moist and a rich peanut butter cream cheese is not too sweet and compliments it perfectly. The bits of chocolate chips through out the cake offset the buttery sweetness of both the cake and icing. Brian and I each had a slice after dinner and savored every bit. I brought a big portion to work the next day to share with others in the kitchen. Brian brought a reasonably large piece with him to the office as well. My kitchen staff and Brian’s office enjoyed it so much many came back for seconds. I’m not judging…it is pleasing to see so many enjoy something you loved to make. And to think: If the vendor at the market didn’t let me know how great the bananas were this whole cake might have never happened!?!

Indulging in this delicious cake! (I think I need seconds.)

Indulging in this delicious cake! (I think I need seconds.)

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Icing (serves 30)

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake (one 10 inch and one 6 inch cake)

3 cups AP flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 cups sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

8 oz butter (room temperature)

3 large eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (4 bananas)

1 cup buttermilk

1 bag of dark chocolate chips (10 oz)

First, preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Grease, parchment line, and flour two pans (shape of your preference) and set aside.

Next, in a bowl mix together you flour, baking soda, and salt – place tit aside. in the bowl of a standing mixer place your butter and both your sugars and mix with a paddle attachment until it is smooth and well combined. Add the vanilla and eggs (one at a time) until well combined. Be sure to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl so that it is well combined. Add in your mashed bananas and mix evenly.

Then, add a bit of your flour mixture and mix until just combined. Follow with a bit of you buttermilk and gently mix until combined. Repeat the process in two more steps until all your batter s well combined. Fold in your chocolate chips. Pour the batter evenly into your two pans and place in the center of your oven. Bake about 45 minutes rotating half way though. You are looking for the cakes to be firm and set, and have a thin knife or toothpick test the cake cleanly – with no gooey cake batter stuck to it.

Finally, let the cake cool to room temperature in the pan for about two hours. Then, place it in your refrigerator over night. The next morning, pop your cake out of the pan, remove the parchment, and slice each cake in half horizontally. Proceed with the icing recipe below.

NOTE: It is always best to pop a cake out of the pan once chilled in it overnight. You will see it almost always will pop out smoothly and in one piece. Also, it is best to slice a cake when completely chilled. It will result in your cake slicing more cleanly, neatly, and without many crumbs.

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Icing

12 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)

8 oz butter (room temperature)

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups creamy peanut butter (organic)

1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

First, in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment place you butter and cream cheese and mix on medium until the butter and cream cheese are well combined. You want to be sure there are now lumps of either ingredient and that it is all smooth. Add in your peanut butter and mix again to combine. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl so that all your mixture is well combined and smooth.

Next, add in your vanilla and combine well. Then slowly add your powdered sugar with the salt, a little at a time until all is mixed and well combined. You are looking for the mixture to be smooth and easily spreadable. If you feel the mixture is too stiff you can add 1 – 2 tbsp of milk at a time while mixing to thin out the icing and make it as soft and spreadable as you like.

Finally, scoop some of the icing you mixed onto one half of the cut sides of the cake. You will want to do this for both sized cakes, Spread the icing out to all the sides of your cake evenly. Top the icing you spread with the other half of the cake  for each size, Again spread the reminder of the icing over the top of each cake. If your like you can swirl the icing to make it look pretty, but smooth works just as well. You can top the smaller cake above the larger one, chill if not serving right away, but let sit out at room temperature for an hour before eating. (Cake should last for up to a week.)

NOTE: If you feel necessary you can place the smaller cake on a piece of plastic wrapped card board cut to match, but only if you are worried about the two cakes touching. one another. I let them sit directly on one another and they separated finely.

 

Feb 19

Kumquat and Rosemary Chicken (with wine braised vegetables)

When you work in a restaurant life can sometimes be difficult. Maybe I should retract that sentence? I do love what I do. I could not imagine myself in any other line of work really. There are times however that attack you in this business. Times like Valentine’s Day for example; all you end up doing is thinking about the upcoming holiday — What do I have to prep? What do I need to order? How am I going to get it all done? What if I didn’t order enough chocolate? What if the fruit is not ripe in time? All other things in life get put to the way side…sleep, relaxation. hobbies, friends, family, and just about anything personal. Then; before you know it the big day comes and goes. You survived! (On very little sleep!) You look back at it and laugh in due time making it all worth it in the end.

That is where I have been. No time for fun, just work and more work. There was an evening where it got to be too much and Brian took me out. I had a slice of pizza and a pint of hard cider.  I ate and drank and vented a lot. Came home afterward to fall fast asleep, I really needed that decompression that evening. I owed Brian big time for dealing with my stress during what most couples perceive as a great holiday.

Kumquat and Rosemary Marinade

Kumquat and Rosemary Marinade

It all got me to thinking about Brian and our relationship. I must admit that sometimes I feel a bit guilty about what I prepare for us to eat daily. You see, I made a conscious decision to become a vegetarian. I wanted and felt the change was necessary in my life. My husband was fully supportive but on the other hand did not feel the need to make the change for himself. It makes me feel bad that he primarily eats a plant based diet due to me. He insists he does not mind, and says he feels he is better for my influence. Somehow, I will always feel bad that he is eating another vegetarian meal when I cook for us.

Chicken pieces marinating and developing lots of flavor.

Chicken pieces marinating and developing lots of flavor.

I have stated on here before I do not mind cooking meat, I just make sure it is consciously done. That and the fact that I studied all types of food in culinary school, I do know what I am doing when faced with a piece of raw protein. If I do not dabble with it once in a while I worry I will lose my knack. That is why I challenged myself, that and I really felt that Brian deserved it. I wanted to make a seasonal chicken dish. I was able to pick up fresh kumquats and rosemary at the market and used them to marinate and bake the chicken. The end result was a bright and flavorful chicken that was just as juicy as it was tangy. It all baked over some wine braised veggies and served over some cracked bulger wheat. A meal worthy for all the non-meat meals he is faced with regularly. Not to mention a meal worth dealing with my agony of restaurant holiday stress. Maybe a good chicken dish can comfort any meat eater, I will stick with my veggies though.

Baked Kumquat Rosemary Chicken with the wine braised vegetables - freshly out of the oven.

Baked Kumquat Rosemary Chicken with the wine braised vegetables – freshly out of the oven.

Kumquat Rosemary Chicken with Wine Braised Veggies (feeds 4)

**If you cannot find kumquats feel free to use oranges, tangerines, or lemons. If you are not familiar with kumquats, they are really small fruits in the citrus family. All is edible on them – skin and all. The flavor is somewhat like a sweeter lemon or a tart orange.

1 1/2 cup chopped kumquats

2 tbsp rosemary sprigs

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tbsp sea salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

5 – 6 chicken pieces (thighs and breasts)

1 yellow onion; trimmed, halved and cut into strips

3 carrots; peeled, trimmed, and chopped into 1 inch pieces

4 stalks of celery,trimmed and chopped into 1 inch pieces

1 cup of dry white wine

Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

First; in a large bowl mix together your kumquats, 1/4 cup of olive oil, rosemary, 2 tbsp of sisal, and 1 tsp of black pepper. place your chicken pieces in the bowl and toss all together. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 – 4 hours.

Next, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a large baking dish (about 9 by 13 inch with a rim at least 2 – 3 inches tall) place your onion, carrot, and celery. Pour the wine over it all and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Remove the marinating chicken from the refrigerator. Place the chicken along with the kumquats and rosemary evenly over the veggies.

Then, place the whole dish in the oven and bake together for about an hour. You will see that the chicken will start to render into the veggies and wine. The chicken will begin to turn golden and brown evenly. (You can check the chicken for it’s “doneness” if you are concerned.)

Finally, once the chicken is browned and the veggies are tender you can remove the dish from the oven. Let it settle and rest about 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm and with the veggies and the juices from the overall dish.

Feb 02

Banana Buckwheat Muffins with Pecans

Our dog Latte woke me up early last Sunday. Her ear was itchy and it needed to be cleaned. She decided to let me know by pacing, panting, continually scratch, and shake her hear right next to my pillow. So I dragged my but out of bed, cleaned her ear while still half a sleep, and instead of going back to bed I camped out on the couch with her and turned on the TV.

To my surprise a Mad Men marathon was on AMC. It no longer bothered me that I was up so early on a day off. Now I was a very happy girl; I sat in my PJ’s with Latte and indulged in one of the greatest time period television series ever. I have written on here before about my love for the show and making a “1960’s themed” dinner to celebrate the show with. Why do I love the show you might ask? There are so many reasons. It could be that it is simply beautifully written. It takes you back in time without really feeling “fictional” and it make you love such a flawed character like Don, the leading man. That is when you know there is good writing involved. I have not loved a character or writing like this since the Sopranos or Breaking Bad.

Mad Men, Muffins, and tea...a great Sunday morning.

Mad Men, Muffins, and Tea…a great Sunday morning.

While indulging myself in some Mad Men marathon time, my stomach started to growl. By now, I had walked the dogs during a commercial break and Brian was awake and zoned in on the marathon as well. I asked him what he would like to eat: waffles, pancakes, muffins? Brian’s response: Muffins!?! This was the perfect opportunity for some banana muffins made with buckwheat flour. I whipped up the muffins as fast as I could…I did not want to miss a moment of the marathon.

Muffins cooling, fresh out of the oven.

Muffins cooling, fresh out of the oven.

While the muffins were baking I heated our tea kettle, muffins and tea are perfect for a lazy Sunday morning. The apartment smelled wonderful as they baked and even more enticing as they cooled. As the series marathon was on its last episode of the morning we watched and nibbled on our warm moist muffins. We sipped our tea and basked in how good a lazy Sunday can be. Im so happy my Latte woke me up. If she didn’t I might have missed out on my Mad Men fix and not have had muffins!

Banana Buckwheat Muffin with Pecans - ready to be devoured.

Banana Buckwheat Muffin with Pecans – ready to be devoured.

Banana Buckwheat Muffins with Pecans (makes 16 muffins)

1 cup Buckwheat flour

1 cup AP flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

4 oz butter, melted

1 egg

1 cup of milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large bananas, very ripe & mashed

1 cup chopped toasted pecans

1 tbsp sugar (optional)

cupcake wrappers

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line your cupcake pan with your cupcake wrappers. In a bowl whisk together both your sugars, melted butter, egg, and vanilla until smooth.

Next, in a separate bowl add your flours, baking powder, and sea salt. Stir it all together. Gently mix the four into your sugar mixture. mix it all until well combined.

Then, fold in your banana and pecans. Once it is all well combined you can fill your cupcake wrappers up to 3/4 full. If you like you can sprinkle the top the the muffins with the reserved tablespoon of sugar.

Finally, place the muffins in the oven and bake about 18 – 25 minutes. You are looking for the muffin tops to be firm yet springy when tapped. Let them cool about 10 minuted before serving and enjoying. Will keep for up to four days at room temperature wrapped in plastic.

Jan 29

Super Bowl food for the non sports fan!

If you know anything about me, I am not a sports fan / follower. Yes, come the Olympics we try to stay up on events. When the World Cup comes around I love to hear the stats and facts of teams across the world. The World Series, anything basket ball related, and Super Bowl – we are lucky if we know when and what is going on about it. In many ways we are the outcasts to our family over all of this.

Ingredients all lined up and ready.

Ingredients all lined up and ready.

Growing up, my family did lots of stuff around sports. During football season it was not uncommon to find my father in his recliner with my sister in a chair next to him watching the Giants. If you were to go to my Uncle Frank and Aunt Fran’s home my uncle always had baseball or basketball on the TV. And as far as my Uncle Bill was concerned – he was always watching, playing, coaching, or refereeing whatever was in season. I, however, never shared these passions. When I first started dating my husband it was a breath of fresh air that he did not have any fascinations with sports, and yet his family did. His Auntie Orch and Uncle Dave were die hard Yankee and baseball fans. His father and brother are avid Giant fans. Upon first moving to Phoenix we were back in New Jersey for a family wedding the following September. When we came down for breakfast in the morning my father-in-law asked, “The Cardinals are playing the Giants! Who are you rooting for?” We both responded the same way, “Are you talking about baseball or football?” My father-in-law had a disgusted look on his face and replied with: “I have no hope with either of you!”

Layer Dip in a glass plate looks great because you can see all the layers.

Layer Dip in a glass plate looks great because you can see all the layers.

Needless to say; whether we are in New Jersey, Phoenix, and now Seattle – it really does not matter what sport is playing. We just don’t follow it. But in the last two years it has been strange. We have a winning football team (the Seahawks) an neither of us have any clue about it. Last week as we are watching 80’s cult film classics we can hear roars of cheering outside – that is our indication that the Seahawks just had a good play. Some might find it odd. I mean the entire city is into it. Despite all the sports fanatics that my husband and I grew up with nothing compares to the amount of Seahawks propaganda that is everywhere you turn. Not to mention, the city kind of shuts down when a game is being played; by this I mean I could take Martini and Latte for a walk down the middle of 1st street and there wouldn’t be a car or person in sight! I find it a bit eerie to tell you the truth. I never saw or experienced anything like this while living in New Jersey or Phoenix.

Layer Dip with Tortilla Chips

Layer Dip with Tortilla Chips

So, I must admit that I find it strangely odd that last year the Seahawks go to the Super Bowl in – New Jersey. This year, the Seahawks will be playing the Super Bowl in – Phoenix. It is like there is a conspiracy in some way to get us involved in a sport we could care less about. So while I came to this realization I made a meal the other night fit for a Super Bowl party. This is something I would have made while I lived in New Jersey – thinking it was “Mexican food”, only to realize after living in Phoenix for ten years that it is nothing close to what Mexican food really is. I have lived and learned (about food) but as far as sports are concerned I still know very little. But Brian and I are happy that way! As for our Super Bowl type food – it was good and tasty; but you will still not see us eating it while watching the game! That is just unheard of.

Layer Dip scooped and ready to dive in.

Layer Dip scooped and ready to dive in.

Super Bowl Layer Dip (serves 6-8)

1 can of refried beans

1 small container of sour cream

1 container of your favorite salsa

1-2 large avocado (diced or mashed)

1 serrano or jalapeno chili, minced

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 tbsp of minced onion

sea salt to taste

1 lime, juiced

1 – 2 cups of grated cheddar cheese (I personally like a smoked one)

1 small can of black olives, sliced

3 – 4 radishes, chopped small

2 – 3 cups of shredded romaine lettuce

Tortilla chips for scooping.

First, in a glass pie plate spread the refried beans down evenly. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl mix the avocado, garlic, onion, chili, lime juice, and sea salt. Combine until well blended and set aside.

Next, layer the remainder of your ingredients evenly and carefully on top of the beans. I personally like to add the sour cream above the beans, followed by the avocado mix. Be sure to be gentle while spreading and layering. If you press down on amy of it too hard you will mix up your layers. Pour your salsa over it all in as even as a coating as possible.

Then, top all of it with an even layer of your cheese. Above the cheese, sprinkle your lettuce evenly. Tope it all with the olives and radishes. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to eat, at lest a hour before eating or up to a day ahead.

Finally, remove from the refrigerator and serve chilled. Have your Tortilla chips on the side and enjoy.

Jan 25

Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon Pasta

We came home from our vacation to find our refrigerator quite bare. That is natural given the circumstances, I mean who would want to go away and leave perishable food in their refrigerator? Who knows what you would come home to!?! So we came home to nothing “fresh” to cook and only pantry staples. So, I headed over to the market; something fresh, bright in flavor, and comforting to eat was in order.

Broccoli Rabe heaping and ready to simmer.

Broccoli Rabe heaping and ready to simmer.

As I walked through the market I spotted it – Braccoli Rabe (or Rappi if you want to call it that). I know that I wrote on here before about my affection for this vegetable and how I grew up eating it. But lately I have been making it with a new twist. I was reading a while back about how lemon is a perfect parring with greens, bitter greens especially. I wanted to give it a try with my favorite greens. I have been cooking them like this for a year now and it is fabulous.

Broccoli Rabe once it wilts.

Broccoli Rabe once it wilts.

 

I simply just slowly simmer the broccoli rabe until tender, then you add in garlic, chili flakes, and olive oil. Once the garlic is tender you add in lemon zest and fresh lemon juice. Toss it all with pasta and serve it with lots of freshly grated parmesan. It is a warm and slightly spicy dish with a nice bright finish from the lemons. There is only one thing that makes this whole dish better – Meyer Lemons. (They are not as harsh and a bit softer in its taste, but it is just as bright in flavor.)

Broccoli Rabe all plated up and dressed with parmesan.

Broccoli Rabe all plated up and dressed with parmesan.

So of course when I saw the broccoli rabe I knew I needed to make this meal. Who wouldn’t want a meal like this after a week away? it is one of those meals that makes you feel as good inside as it is tasty. To me, a meal worth coming home to and getting your everyday life back in order. Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon Pasta is that good.

Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon Pasta - I'm digging in!

Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon Pasta – I’m digging in!

Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon Pasta (serves 4)

*Note: You can easily substitute lemon if meyer lemon cannot be found.

1 bunch of broccoli rabe

3 meyer lemons, zested and juiced

5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

sea salt

3/4 – 1 pound of pasta of choice

parmesan cheese for grating

First, trim the bottom end (at least a 1/2 inch) of your broccoli rabe. Wash it several times to be sure it is clean. Chop the remainder into 1 inch pieces. Place them in a large saute pan (it may be heaping, and that is okay) with about 1 1/2 cups of water. Place the pan over medium heat and heat until water begins to simmer and the broccoli rabe starts to wilt.

Next, place a large pot (6 – 8 quarts) of salted water over high heat and wait for it to boil.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on your broccoli rabe. You are looking for the majority of the water to simmer away while you keep stirring it. When there is only a trace of water left; add in your olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Place a lid on the pot for about 5 minutes and then remove, your garlic should start to become fragrant and tender. Season it with some sea salt to taste.

Finally, your large pot of water should be boiling. Cook your pasta according to the directions on its packaging.  Once the pasta is cooking add the meyer lemon juice and zest to the broccoli rabe and stir is all together while gently simmering. When pasta is cooked drain it well and toss it together with the broccoli rabe serve with lots of parmesan cheese to grate fresh.

Jan 22

New Orleans Trip leads to Vegan Red Beans and Rice

On January 1st Brian and I packed our bags and headed to New Orleans for a much anticipated vacation. We had never been and yearning to go for quite some time. Just like life is, things kept popping up and the trip kept getting pushed back. When we realized that we both had some time to finally get away come January we jumped at the chance. I searched for a deal online, booked the trip, and waited on pins and needles for us to get there.

IMG_8742

Beignets – just some of the few I indulged in.

I couldn’t wait to walk around a city I have never been before. (One of my favorite parts of enjoying a new place.) Jazz music and beignets were to be indulged in, along with some great creole food. Believe me, New Orleans did not disappoint. The jazz music we stumbled upon both out on the streets and in clubs was so enjoyable. I tried beignets at three different places; and might I add that the ones at Morning Call were the best. Brian indulged in a New Orleans treat called “Crawfish Bread”…yes, he loved every nibble of it! We toured through the Treme, the Bywater, and Frenchman Street. We road the streetcars, strolled through City Park, indulged in a very nice meal at Bayona, and we even got to eat at the famous Dooky Chase (it was an honor to be there, but that is another blog post entirely).

IMG_8805

City Park, NOLA

I know many probably go to New Orleans to party, drink, and live it up till all hours of the night. But I am not everybody and I felt somewhat guilty about telling Brian that I wanted to go to bed by the time 10 o’clock rolled around. I rationalized it with it was my vacation and we did do a lot everyday we were there. We were up and at early each day, most likely while most were still fast asleep. I love being out and about in a new place just as the sun hits the sidewalks and you see the comings, and goings of everyday life there. By the time evenings roll around I am  just as happy relaxing in my PJ’s and watching reruns of Criminal Intent.

IMG_8925

I will admit that I loved just about everything in that city, and I am personally looking forward to going back and exploring new parts of it. There was one disappointment though. Being a vegetarian, there was a lack to good old creole or soul food I could indulge in. Lots of the dishes have ham, pork, or crawfish in them. At each place we passed by I would look over the menu, and see my option was a salad. I am not complaining mind you. I was prepared for this, and every salad I ate was really tasty. But I really wanted a dish of red beans and rice! They looked so good, and there were a couple of dishes of them I spotted that made my mouth water. What could I do about it? I did the only thing I knew I could. I purchased a bag of New Orleans Red Beans to bring home and once we were settled – Vegan Creole Red Beans and Rice was for dinner. The result: super tasty, savory, and oh so yummy! It may not be a traditional way of cooing them, but it was damn good! Maybe on my next visit there will be more food options for the vegetarian, in the mean time I will keep indulging in my vegan version.

Vegan Red Beans and Rice

Vegan Red Beans and Rice

Vegan Creole Red Beans  (Serves 4)

1 cup dried red beans

1 green bell pepper, cored and diced

1 yellow onion, chopped small

3 cloves of garlic, chopped small

2 tsp dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 quart veggie stock

sea salt to taste

cooked white or brown rice (variety of preference)

First, the night before you would like to make this dish place your beans in a large bowl and cover with about 5 cups  of water. Cover and set aside in a cool dark place overnight. (I personally just keep it on my counter out of direct sunlight.)

Next, drain the beans and place in a 4 – 6 quart pot with a a quart of water. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer for about 45 minutes.

Then, add your green bell pepper and onion. Along with this add your herbs, black pepper, and nutritional yeast. Stir it well and add your veggie stock. Let it all simmer together until your beans are tender and your liquid is reduced by half.

Finally, remove a few ladles of your mixture and puree. Add this mixture back to the pot and stir together seasoning it with your sea salt to taste. Ladle you mixture over rice and serve.

 

Jan 16

Memorable Warm Cabbage Salad

There is a restaurant in Sedona, Az. called The Heartline Cafe that Brian and I really enjoyed over the years. While living in the dessert we would annually make a trip up to Sedona during the holiday season. We would enjoy a touch of the cooler temperature, take in christmas light displays, treat ourselves to a great meal, and head back home. Sedona was a bit of a drive from where we lived (at least an hour and a half); but it was always well worth it.

While eating our dinner this past Christmas Eve I kept thinking about the last time we were there. It was five years prior and I almost didn’t go. You see right after Thanksgiving that year my father ended up in the hospital. By the time Christmas rolled around he was still there. His health was touch and go for a while, we were all scared, and could not get into the holiday spirit in the least. I can remember looking at Brian and telling him we should cancel our plans and stay home, I was not in the mood for anything holiday related. But he insisted we make the trip. I can remember him expressing to me that I needed to do something other than worry about my family.

Cabbage ready to be wilted and dressed.

Cabbage ready to be wilted and dressed.

To be honest, I really don’t even remember the drive. I slept most of the way there and it felt good. I had not had a full nights sleep since before this whole ordeal with my father started. Once we were in Sedona we walked through a Christmas light display and being out in the cool air felt so good. We then headed over to the restaurant and had a wonderful meal. I can remember I had a deliciously warm and comforting red cabbage salad. It was out of the ordinary from what I normally would eat, and that is quite possibly why I remember it so well. It had crunch, nuts, and some delicious creamy goat cheese, it was a very well rounded salad if you ask me.

Warm Cabbage dressed and waiting to be plated.

Warm Cabbage dressed and waiting to be plated.

Fast forward to present day. My father is much better now thank you. As last Christmas passed, New Year’s went by, and I still had that warm cabbage salad on my mind – yes, five years later. Once Brian and I were back into our grove of normalcy last week, I stopped by the market to pick up a head of purple cabbage so I could recreate the salad in my memory. The result was just as good as I remembered. And might I add…What better on these winter evenings than a warm salad that still has crunch? Plus, it is so pretty on the plate with it’s deep hue that it will impress others you serve it to. Trust me, this salad is a memorable one.

Warm Cabbage Salad

Warm Cabbage Salad, plated and ready to eat.

Warm Cabbage Salad, with Hazelnuts, Goat Cheese, and Pears (serves 4 – 6)

***Note: when choosing a cabbage, be sure to pick one that is dense, crisp, and deep in huge. This salad will work fine with a green or red cabbage but I personally like the hue the purple cabbage lends to the dish.

1 medium head of purple cabbage; peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tbsp honey

sea salt to taste

fresh black pepper to taste

2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skins rubbed off

2 oz fresh goat cheese

1 – 2 pears firm and crisp

First, place a large sauce pan over medium heat and warm through. Poor the vegetable oil in the pan and warm through. Add the cabbage to the pan and keep stirring and tossing until cabbage is slightly wilted but remains its crunchy texture.

Next, once cabbage is wilted slightly add the vinegar and honey and keep stirring and tossing until well coated. Season the cabbage with sea salt and black pepper to taste along with 1 tbsp of the thyme over it all. Stir it well.

Then, roughly chop the hazelnuts. add them to the cabbage mixture and toss it well. Slice your pears in half, removing the core, and slice them evenly. Break up or slice your goat cheese evenly, and set aside.

Finally, with cabbage still warm divid it among your plates. Arrange the pear slices along the side of the salads, place your goat cheese on top of your cabbage, and sprinkle each plate with the remainder of the thyme leaves. Serve while still warm.

Dec 31

Mixed Colorful Roasted Veggies

In the past couple of days I have taken the time to reflect on what has passed, what I would like to stay, and in some cases what I would rather forget. There were new things I tried, new destinations we have gone to, new goals that had been made, and new ambitions to be put into place. I have done this for the last few few years as it all comes to a close. In some sorts it is like taking inventory of what I have valued, learned, and let go of.

Mixed veggies, very colorful; and ready for the oven.

Mixed veggies, very colorful; and ready for the oven.

I do not feel it is uncommon to do this at the end of the year. Getting ready to take on a new one with abandonment and ambition. For some reason it always makes me think of the movie Forest Gump. There is the point in the movie when he is visiting Lieutenant Dan in New York for New Year’s Eve. There is a girl there who says, “Don’t you just love New Years? It’s like everyone gets a fresh start!”

Nicely roasted and fresh out of the oven.

Nicely roasted and fresh out of the oven.

With a fresh start on my horizon I thought about the moments of this past year that stand out the most. The ones I am proud of, and the moments I want to cherish forever. In retrospect it was the moments that were colorful. They made us smile, laugh, giggle, and cheer. That made me think of my dinner last night…it was very colorful: Mixed Roasted Veggies. Using up the miscellaneous veggies we had on hand resulted in an array of color and huge flavor. (We are going away for a few days and we have been trying to clean out the refrigerator.) Maybe if we eat more colorfully we will live more colorfully? It is worth a try. In the meantime, Happy New Year to you all. Be happy, be safe, live it fully, and eat colorfully!

Roasted, plated, and oh so colorful!

Roasted, plated, and oh so colorful!

Mixed Colorful Roasted Veggies (feeds 4)

*Note: this is more then enough as a side dish for 4, but I have on occasion made this  and have been more than enough as a mane dish for 2 with a light and simple salad to accompany it.

3 purple potatoes, cubed

2 golden beets, cubed

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 parsnip, peeled and chopped

5 sun chokes or Jerusalem artichokes, cleaned and chopped

3 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 bulb fennel, trimmed and sliced

olive oil

sea salt

black pepper, freshly ground

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper and brush the parchment with a bit of olive oil.

Next, place all your veggies in a large bowl and drizzle about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of olive oil over it all. with your hands, toss it all together. (I like to use my hands for this because you feel if the veggies are coated fully.) Keep tossing until all your veggies seem to have an even coating of olive oil on them.

Then, distribute the tossed veggies among the two lined sheet pans. Sprinkle the veggies with your sea salt and some black pepper and place in your oven to roast.

Finally, let the veggies roast for 20 – 25 minutes. Open the oven and give the veggies a good stir and place back in the oven for about, another 20 minutes. You are looking for a bit of caramelization over the veggies and for them to be tender to a fork. Remove from the oven when done and  serve.

Dec 30

Spicy Garbanzo and Butternut Squash Curry

As the year comes to a close and there are random amounts of stuff in my refrigerator. I have been pondering what to make, without the usual hodge-podge of veggies thrown together in a soup, pasta, or my usual stir fry. I will admit that I do make each of these things tasty, but I was looking for something a bit more lively and flavorful this time around. After looking over my vegetable dilemma I realized I had some onion I needed to make use of along with the bottom half of a butternut squash, and a couple of red potatoes. Not necessarily thrilling, but I really needed something out of the ordinary.

photo 2-6

Spicy Curry ingredients being gathered.

Then I remembered! I was looking at the blog from the Canal House just a couple of weeks ago. They send out a picture just about every day of what they make for their “lunch”. The picture that looked so appealing and stuck with me was a curry. Theirs was made with pumpkin and garbanzos. I love a good curry, and as far as I am concerned pumpkin is not much different than butternut squash. Do you see were I am going here? Curry was now what was for dinner!

I went into the kitchen and pulled together the butternut squash, onion, potatoes, and garbanzos. I also chopped the usual curry basics: some ginger, garlic, hot chilies, and garlic. I placed a pot on the stove and started layering my flavors and building my spices. (That is what I have learned that makes curries so enticing…it is all about the layering of flavors!) Once my ginger, chili, garlic, and onions sizzled away with lots of curry powder I added in the veggies and covered it all with some veggie broth. It all became fork tender and the liquid thickened and reduced a bit. In my opinion this dish was perfect. It was fiery, had a kick of spice, and awakened my senses beyond the basic holiday flavors I have been eating over the past couple of weeks. I personally think it was perfect, but that is just me. If you want to give this recipe a try might I warn you that it is spicy! You can always tone it down; but where is the fun in that? I think all the holiday season should be a lively as this dish. It might bring on more excitement to all who try it.

Spicy Butternut Squash and Garba<br /><p class=nzos Curry " width="1024" height="768" /> Spicy Garbanzo and Butternut Squash Curry

Spicy Butternut Squash and Garbanzo Curry (feeds 4 – 6)

1/2 and onion chopped

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 tbsp of minced ginger

2 serrano chillies, chopped small

2 tbsp of Madras curry powder (or any favorite curry powder you may have)

3 tbsp of oil (peanut, vegetable, or coconut)

1 can of garbanzos, drained (15 oz)

3-4 red potatoes, chopped

5 cups chopped butternut squash (skin peeled and seeded)

vegetable broth, about 6 – 8 cups

Sea Salt to taste

plain yogurt for serving

lemon wedges for serving

Rice to serve with (jasmine or bastmatti), cooked

First, place a 6 quart pot over medium heat and warm through. Place your oil in the pan and warm through. To this add your curry powder and let it all sizzle together until the curry become fragrant and slightly toasted. To this add your onion and stir a bit until coated and sizzling. Add your ginger, chilies, and garlic and continually stir. You are looking for your onions to become translucent and the other spices to become fragrant.

Next; add your garbanzos, potatoes, and butternut squash. Stir it well until well coated with the oil and spice mixture. once your veggies are simmering and coated add your broth and bring t a simmer. Cover you pot and let it simmer over medium to low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring it frequently.

Then, once your veggies are tender with a fork you are just about done. Although, be sure to keep an eye on your liquid in the pan. you do not want it dry out and burn. If you feel it is getting to this point, feel free to add a bit of water if needed.

Finally, test your veggies an see if they are as tender as you would like. Once they are “done” to your liking, season it with sea salt to taste. Be sure to serve it while hot and over rice (if making). Along with lemon wedges and yogurt if you like. (The yogurt helps calm down the spiciness a bit.)

Dec 22

Holiday Worthy Appetizers

Well the holidays are really, literally right around the corner. I feel like it have been neglecting this blog a bit, and for that I am sorry. But to be honest I have been neglecting all of my holiday cooking. I had no time to make cookies this year (gasp!), nor have I had time to get together with friends and decorate them! I did spend an afternoon making some of my Uncle Jimmy’s Chocolate Bottom Pecan Pie! (You can read about the pie and get the recipe here.) I made them so Brian and I could share them with our coworkers. That, unfortunately is where it ended.

I did, however make a few  recipes that I thought were perfect to share with you in the mean time. You see I did feel like the holidays were getting away from us so I made sure to whip up two little appetizers for us to indulge in this past weekend before we ate dinner. Brian and I got to sit and snack on them; and if you can you believe it, we actually got to sit and talk for a while before dinner!?! We have been so hectic around here that we really have not had time for some decent face to face conversation. This and the appetizer snacks were all too fitting for the occasion.

Holiday worthy appetizers: Warm Rosemary, Shallot, and Garlic Mixed Nuts & Fresh Endive Boats

Holiday worthy appetizers: Warm Rosemary, Shallot, and Garlic Mixed Nuts & Fresh Endive Boats

The first of the appetizers I made is a Rosemary, Shallot, and Garlic Mixed Nuts. They are slightly sweet, have a hint of spice, and the crunch of the roasted nuts makes them all too addicting. I have been making this recipe for a long time. I got it from the Martha Stewart Hors D’oeuvres Handbook I have had for years. I made it for our families years ago when we traveled back to New Jersey for Thanksgiving. I placed them in small bowls around the room for everyone to snack on at there leisure. My mom happened to sit next to one of the bowls and by the end of the evening told me: “Danielle, I think I ate all of those nuts! I couldn’t stop eating them – they are addicting!” This recipe is all to perfect, and always a pleaser.

Warm Rosemary, Shallot, and Garlic Mixed Nuts

Warm Rosemary, Shallot, and Garlic Mixed Nuts

The second of the two appetizers were endive boats. I made things like this when I catered all the time. I will be honest though, what I fill them with totally depends on my mood and more importantly the season. You just line them up of a tray or platter and fill them carefully so that they are uniform. I try to always make sure they are colorful and have a balance on texture and flavor. For these, I filled them with freshly sliced figs, goat cheese, topped them off with some fresh chives, and a dab of balsamic. They are all together perfect with a crunch from the endive, creamy from the goat cheese, and slightly tangy from the fig slices and balsamic.

Endive Boats with Goat Cheese and Fresh Figs

Endive Boats with Goat Cheese and Fresh Figs

Both of these “snacky” appetizers were great for unwinding, building time together, and light enough not to spoil our dinner. I must also say that they were elegant enough to make us feel a bit more into the holiday spirit. The nut recipe makes quite a bit, so we wrapped up the remainders and shared them with our coworkers. The endive can be made as you go, so don’t feel obligated to make a ton of it…just what you feel is necessary. If you find the time to make these this holiday Im sure you and your company will greatly enjoy them. Plus, you will have the added benefit of no fuss while having time to spend with your company. I am sure you will enjoy them as we, and so many others have over the years. Happy Holidays to all of you!

Rosemary, Shallot, and Garlic Mixed Nuts (makes 5 cups)

*From Martha Stewart’s Hors D’Oeuvres Handbook

5 cups of mixed nuts: walnuts, cashews, almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts (mix them as you like)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 small shallots, thinly sliced crosswise into rings (yields about a 1/4 cup)

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced lengthwise

2 tbsp of unsalted butter

1/4 cup coarsely chopped rosemary

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp packed dark brown sugar

1 tbsp losher salt

First, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the nuts in a single layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Toast until the nuts are golden and fragrant, 8 – 10 minutes. Rotating the pans half way through. Transfer the nuts when done to a large bowl and set aside.

Next, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic: fry until golden (3 – 5 minutes). Transfer the shallots and garlic to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.

Finally, melt the butter and pour it over the nuts. Add the rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, and salt – stir it well to combine. Toss in the crispy garlic and shallots. Serve warm. Can be reheated in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes. (Keeps up to a week when well wrapped.)

 

Endive Boats (feeds 4 -6)

**Note: can be made up to 1 hour ahead and but keep refrigerated, and best to be kept fresh.

1 – 2 heads of endive

about 4 – 6 oz of fresh goat cheese

3-4 fresh figs, trimmed and sliced

2 tbsp of chopped chives

Balsamic vinegar

Fresh black pepper, to taste

First, trim and remove the endive leaves. I like to line them up to keep them evenly in shape and size, trimming where necessary.

Next, line your endive on your serving platters and drop a small, yet even mount of goat cheese into your endive leaves. Next to the endive place the fresh fig slice.

Then, with a spoon, drop a small amount of the balsamic over the goat cheese. Sprinkle the chives evenly over the endives. Chill until ready to serve.

Finally, when ready to serve sprinkle enough black pepper over the endive boats (just to your own taste and liking) and serve.

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